With Malice Blog Tour! Review and Q&A with Eileen Cook

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Title: With Malice
Author: Eileen Cook
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Source: ARC provided by Raincoast Books
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Overall: 4.5 STARS

For fans of We Were Liars and The Girl on the Train comes a chilling, addictive psychological thriller about a teenage girl who cannot remember the last six weeks of her life.

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron's senior trip to Italy was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. And then the accident happened. Waking up in a hospital room, her leg in a cast, stitches in her face, and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be, Jill comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident in her travels abroad. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident...wasn't an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life. 

It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime. Jill and Simone, two best friends since fourth grade, and weeks in Italy on the Adventures Abroad Program for promising students wishing to experience the culture of another country. But nothing went according to plan. Jill wakes up in a hospital back home in the USA. And Simone is dead... killed in Italy in a car accident that Jill can't recall.

In fact, the last six weeks of Jill's life are a blank space. Her doctors tell her it's understandable, given the trauma she experienced and the serious physical injuries she sustained in the wreck. All Jill needs to focus on is the weeks of rehabilitation ahead of her. But if it was really just a terrible accident, why has her father hired a lawyer and press team? And a more chilling thought, what if it really wasn't an accident that Simone is now gone?

Two beautiful girls, a foreign location, and a potential crime of jealousy—the news headlines are sensational. Everyone wants to know what happened, and public sympathy is not on Jill's side, not when her classmates say Jill and Simone had been fighting on the trip. Jill can barely comprehend it all. She and Simone had been just like sisters; she would never hurt her. But with police interview transcripts from teachers, staff, and students on the Italy trip interspersed in the story, the more we're unsure who to believe.

I loved that I wasn't ever sure what direction With Malice would take. As each new detail emerged, my opinion of the events would constantly evolve. There's more than one side to every story, but sifting through the witness accounts and Jill's own thoughts was an addictive challenge. The truth can become so distorted. A harmless comment or photograph can be taken out of context, and words can be twisted against you.

Eileen Cook's With Malice is her best—and most ambitiousnovel yet. Mysterious. Intriguing. Scandalously fun and ripe with tension. With Malice is an unforgettable YA psychological thriller that will capture your attention until you turn to the very last page. It's the kind of book that kept me awake into the middle of the night, unwilling to stop reading until I discovered the truth of the events in Italy. I absolutely loved With Malice.

Q&A With Eileen Cook
With Malice is your very first YA psychological thriller, featuring a teenage girl who cannot recall the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend. Did you find it challenging to write from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, always trying to leave readers off-kilter and suspicious of everyone?

This was the most complicated book I’ve written. I had charts and diagrams and a complete timeline done on index cards in different colored ink. All of this was to keep track of who knew what, and when they knew it. I’m willing to admit there were more than a few times that I pounded my head on the desk because I’d written myself into a corner. Having said that—I really liked the main character Jill. She’s not always easy to like, she has her flaws, but I liked her complexity.

One thing I realized in the process of writing is that we’re all unreliable narrators to some degree. We twist reality to fit our belief systems. We tell people only select bits of information, or we tell it in a particular way to shape how those people think of us. There are times that you may have what feels like a very clear memory, only to discover that other people remember the same situation very differently. Reality is a lot more flexible than we may like to believe.

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